Ham vs. Turkey

ham vs. turkey

When you sit down to eat at a large gathering this holiday season, the odds of being offered ham or turkey are usually pretty good. Both meats have become staples on our holiday menus. While both meats come close in the popularity race, does one pull ahead when it comes to nutrition? Let’s take a look!    

Turkey has both light and dark meat and is typically leaner, which means it contains less fat. Both meats provide protein, a macronutrient that is more filling than either carbohydrates or fat. Protein also provides amino acids, which you need to nourish your muscles. When it comes to protein, turkey takes the cake. A serving of light turkey meat provides around 25g of protein, compared to about 23g in dark turkey meat and 14g in ham. Both turkey and ham are relatively low in calories. One 3-ounce serving of light turkey contains about 125 calories and the same serving size of ham contains about 139 calories. Turkey that is cooked from fresh or frozen with minimal processing is a clear winner on the sodium meter, with less than 100mg of sodium per 3oz serving, compared to ham, which can have over 1,000mg. During the smoking process of ham, nitrates and nitrites are often added as a preservative. Research has shown a link between nitrates and nitrites and cancer.  (You can find ham without added nitrates and nitrites, but you will typically pay more). Looking at micronutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, ham contains higher amounts of thiamine, while turkey contains higher amounts of iron, zinc, phosphorus, selenium, niacin, and vitamins B-6 and B12.


Turkey provides more protein per serving and is typically leaner. It is also higher in micronutrients and significantly lower in sodium.

Turkey, ham, and other types of meat can provide important macro and micronutrients.  When selecting a meat, try and make sure you are choosing good-quality products. One way to find good-quality meats is to buy locally-grown at a farmer’s market or directly from a farm. Whether or not you choose to eat meat, remember the importance of plants in the diet and be sure to have at least half your plate be fruits and vegetables.


Coley Huebner – Weight of the Fox Valley AmeriCorps Member